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Easter gift of faith


Easter is a time of transformation for all Christians but especially for those men and women being baptised into the Catholic Church.

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As participants in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), their path to entering the Church is deeply personal, their stories varied and uplifting.

Like that of Stacy Blair, the 35-year-old mother of three who is expecting her fourth child in April.

Stacy had what she calls an ‘awakening’ to the Church five years ago.

“No one evangelised me and there wasn’t a person who said, ‘Hey, come join the Church’,” she said.

“Over the years I researched a lot of different faiths, and a lot of things simply didn’t land with me.”

She tried to “squash’ the idea of becoming Catholic but it kept resurfacing and after going “deeply into the learning”, she found some of her preconceptions about Catholicism “simply weren’t true”.

Now she is more determined than ever to see it through.

“It has been really challenging to get to classes some weeks and often the children are very upset that I’m leaving,” she said.

“As my pregnancy progresses it gets harder and harder to have a late night but I am so committed to
this journey and so excited about my upcoming baptism and confirmation I keep using this as my motivation.”

RCIA participants Shaun Duncan, Dave van Heerde (RCIA team), Gabrielle Byrne (RCIA coordinator), Krystina Ebsary, Kim Marchetta.Front Row L-R: Stacy Blair, Lino Pheng, Wayne Best (sponsor), Jasmin Munro, Jacinta Best, Marlene Hemming (sponsor), and Liz Stanley.

RCIA participants Shaun Duncan, Dave van Heerde (RCIA team), Gabrielle Byrne (RCIA coordinator), Krystina Ebsary, Kim Marchetta.
Front Row L-R: Stacy Blair, Lino Pheng, Wayne Best (sponsor), Jasmin Munro, Jacinta Best, Marlene Hemming (sponsor), and Liz Stanley.

Stacy is one of 13 participants in the Noarlunga/Seaford RCIA program who have been meeting weekly, an increase on previous years.

“There are many reasons why people decide to come,” said Gabrielle Byrne, pastoral coordinator for the Noarlunga/Seaford parish.

“Some have children going to Catholic schools or have a spouse who is Catholic. Others just find their way. The majority come to Mass here at St Luke’s before they’re in the RCIA. It’s different for everyone.”

Gabrielle said the increase in participation was “heartening”.

“Someone asked how we get the numbers,” she said.

“I don’t do anything. We are conduits. The Holy Spirit draws people.”

That’s exactly what happened to Stacy, despite her initial internal resistance.

“I actually had a really profound experience,” she said.

“My family was camping in Hay and when I woke up in the tent, it was filled with light. As the light faded, it said ‘God’ in front of my eyes.”

Stacy said she was almost too embarrassed to tell her family.

“Around that time, I had lost a pregnancy at 16 weeks and when I was seeking support and looking for comfort, I kept finding it in scripture from women online,” she said.

When trying to discern which ‘denomination’ was for her, she was drawn to the transparency of the Catholic Church.

“Whilst I absolutely believe having a personal relationship with Jesus is at the core, something really appealing to me was how clearly laid out Catholic beliefs are, and how accessible they are to everyone,” she said.

“When Fr Josy Sebastian invited me to do RCIA, he told me this would enable me to discern if my beliefs aligned before I could be baptised and join the Church. That felt powerful. Everything is clear and open and it’s only if you agree that you take the next step.”

It took more than five years of internal battle before Stacy seriously took the plunge 18 months ago, with the full support of her husband. She sometimes wonders if she waited too long but is comforted by something Archbishop Patrick O’Regan said when she and 40 fellow catechumens, accompanied by their sponsors, met with him before the Rite of Election ceremony.

‘Remember, God is never late,’ he told them.

RCIA's Dave van Heerde.

RCIA participant Liz Stanley.

Liz Stanley knows this all too well. The 63 year old from St Luke’s parish is the oldest member of the Noarlunga/Seaford cohort and is looking forward to her first Communion and Confirmation on March 30.

“My husband was baptised Catholic many years ago in Melbourne and over the last two or three years he’s been going to St Luke’s probably because he got very unwell,” Liz said.

“A priest at Flinders Hospital told him to go and talk with Fr Josy and he’s been going ever since. I heard about the RCIA in July 2023, and it was like I’d been called. I needed it in my life right at that moment and it has been fantastic.”

Liz said she’s changed a lot through the process.

“I have no animosity or anger anymore. The more I got into the program, the better I’ve been.”

She and her husband pray together every night.

“It lifts everything. If something happens during the day that feels like a burden, it’s gone that night after we pray together.”

Liz is also more positive. “I’m not just more positive about the future, I’m positive about everything,” she said.

RCIA's Dave van Heerde.

RCIA’s Dave van Heerde.

“In the past, I was too worried about things like what if I die or someone I know gets sick or dies? How am I going to handle that? Now, I know I can. I’m very positive about the future. I’ve made some new friends, too. My sponsor Marlene Hemming is a wonderful lady.”

Sponsors are an important part of the journey. It can be as rewarding for them as it is for the catechumens. Sponsor Dave van Heerde describes the role as the gift of seeing the joy in finding Jesus.

“It’s the absolute happiness after the Easter Vigil,” he said. “Knowing as a sponsor that the Holy Spirit works to teach our real purpose, to be eternally united with God.”

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